Tomorrow the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers square off for the first of two meetings this year. The Packers will host the Bears, after getting beat at Lambeau Field on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. The Bears come off a home win against the Indianapolis Colts and will be looking to go two games ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North.
In our first of a two-part series previewing this contest, Bill Huber of Packer Report asks Jeremy Stoltz of Bear Report five questions regarding the Bears.
The NFL comes down to quarterbacking. There are two schools of thought on Jay Cutler. One is he's not consistently good enough to win three or four playoff games to get the Bears a Super Bowl championship. The other is he's had nothing but No. 2 or No. 3 receivers with Chicago, which has changed with Brandon Marshall. What say you?
Consistency is definitely Cutler's weakness. He showed it in Week 1. Despite 333 passing yards and two touchdowns, he also threw a pick-six and probably should have had two other passes intercepted. But the lack of receiving options since he's come to Chicago has been laughable. Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery finally give Cutler what he's been lacking and may help him take that next step.
Marshall will face Tramon Williams, the Packers' top cornerback and arguably one of the top three or four at the position in 2010. He seems to have returned to form after a bad season due to a season-long shoulder injury. If Cutler and Marshall need help, where are they turning?
Jeffery showed his big-play ability last week, hauling in a 42-yard touchdown pass. His size (6-2, 215) makes him a weapon in the red zone as well. Earl Bennett out of the slot is also a solid possession option on passing downs. And if the Packers take away everything down the field, there's always Matt Forte, one of the best receiving running backs in the league.
The offensive tackles are going to be key. Clay Matthews started the season with a vengeance by getting 2.5 sacks against San Francisco's solid Joe Staley. Should the Bears feel comfortable with J'Marcus Webb facing Matthews? And, considering most of my readers are Badgers fans, how is right tackle Gabe Carimi coming along after an injury ruined his rookie season?
Bears fans should be worried about Webb, despite his strong performance in the season opener. He's shown improvement this season but he's still inconsistent and has struggled with speed rushers like Matthews in the past. His ability to protect Cutler's blindside in this upcoming game will be key for Chicago's offense. Gabe Carimi is close to 100 percent and played well in the season opener. If he can get over the mental hurdle of his knee, he'll be a quality player on the right side going forward.
There's been a lot of talk nationally about this Bears defense not being up to par, at least by their lofty standards. What's the scouting report?
The secondary is an issue, especially with Charles Tillman's status up in the air. If he can't go, the Bears will have trouble matching up against Green Bay's four- and five-receiver sets. Inexperience at the safety position could haunt this team throughout the season as well. Health in the front seven could also be problematic. There's a lot of pride with this group though, so if they do take a step back, it won't be from a lack of effort.
Everyone knows that Brian Urlacher isn't 100 percent. Doing Bear Report Radio on Monday night, it sounds like Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman aren't 100 percent, either. To me, that sounds like the best player at each level of the defense is ailing. If that's the case, how do the Bears slow the Packers' attack?
Great question I think Chicago has to follow the blueprint the 49ers laid out last week: Shut down the run game and then send the safeties deep, keeping Green Bay's receivers in front of the defense. If they start letting the Packers' speedy wideouts get open deep, it'll be a long day for the Bears.
Jeremy Stoltz is editor of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com. Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com.